You don’t know me, and you probably won’t even remember your interaction with me. I would like to thank you for helping me to bond with my then newborn, for the fears that you helped quieten, for your gentle support and for the confidence you gave me.
Let me explain.
I was 7 weeks into my journey as a mum, and with my husband returning to work, I was at quite a loose end. After weeks of visiting relatives and friends, everyone had returned to their own routines. I was left trying to find a new rhythm, find my feet (when my head was so tired from lack of sleep) and find a way to enjoy my now largely solo days.
It was winter, and having spent many days inside trying to keep my son away from the blustery wind, I finally decided that I needed to get out of the house and see other human beings. I ventured to Seddon, endured the hassle of the pram that I had not yet learnt to unfold, the drizzle and the getting-your-tiny-baby-out-of-the-rear-facing-seat-and-over-that-annoying-belt juggle. Feeling triumphant, but also a little vulnerable, I finally managed to get my pram through a cafe door and plonk myself down at a table.
I ordered a decaf latte.
In the wait for that pseudo caffeine hit, I suddenly noticed that my previously sleeping son was now getting restless. The restlessness turned into the familiar cry for a feed. I suddenly felt very exposed. I had fed him before I left the house so that I would not have to feed him in public. Feeding had not come easily to us, and it was a process that I and my son still found really hard. I suddenly realised that there was no one else sitting at my table: no husband, sister or friend whose presence would help distract and shield eyes from my baby feeding.
But it had to be done.
I told myself not to be silly – that boobs are just skin, that feeding my baby is the most natural thing in the world, that no one would judge me, and that no one really cared. None of this inner dialogue helped allay the PANIC. The room suddenly felt too hot and I felt like all eyes were on me. I picked up my now frantic son, fretted with a top that was stupidly inconvenient and finally got him to my breast. I breathed in to calm myself down, and in that moment, I looked up.
There across the room was YOU. I had not noticed you before. I looked over and you were smiling at me. You held your toddler on your lap while you fed him. He was happily kicking his legs while he fed, and stroking your face. You were so calm, so present and so natural about what you did. You connected eyes with me and I had a sudden feeling of solidarity. I was going to be ok. I was doing the right thing.
I realised that in 18 months’ time, I wanted to be you. To be passing my own confidence over to a new mother. I realised that feeding discretely at home – or feeding discretely anywhere, really – is not the point. I should be out there breastfeeding wherever I need to be. That if I am confident, then perhaps I can help others to feel like they can be, too. Your smile gave me purpose.
So, today, when I fed my son in a cafe almost 2 years later, I thought about you. I think our seemingly minor interaction is the reason why I was able to continue with breastfeeding. I am so grateful for all the beautiful hours spent holding my baby and the confidence it has given me. My body doesn’t need to be beautiful, pretty or sexy, because it is USEFUL. I can do wonderful things with it like walk, run, swim and lift my son and feed him. But there is another lesson that you gave me. That I can be the change that I so want to see. That if I want to be accepted and feel comfortable feeding my baby, I have to make others feel comfortable. When I was floundering, you gave me purpose.
So, I hope that you get to read this. Thank you.